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Sight Loss Needn’t Mean Job Loss

Visualise Founder Daniel Williams looks at how, with reasonable adjustments, assistive technology and support, employees with sight loss can continue to enjoy fulfilling and productive working lives.

Employee with sight loss in a meeting using assistive technology to read a document

Losing your eyesight is scary, challenging and disconcerting and having to change the way you do things and learning new skills can be exhausting. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of eyesight deterioration is the uncertainty around employment. It may be hard to tell somebody for fear of losing your job and you may struggle with tasks and suffer from eye strain or headaches because you are trying so hard to cope. Or, you could be afraid to tell your manager in case they think that you can no longer carry out your daily tasks as efficiently as you used to, and this may lead to the fear of unemployment. All this uncertainty and ambiguity may convince you and others around you that you are just clumsy.

Let’s think about the common symptoms and challenges of sight loss, and how they may make you feel:

  • The computer screen and keyboard are difficult to see
  • Eye fatigue or pain
  • Struggling to recognise colleagues
  • Difficulty in getting around in dim or dark environments
  • Lighting may cause you discomfort
  • Becoming tired
  • Finding print or handwriting difficult to read
  • Constant headaches
  • Becoming clumsy and tripping more often than normal

Experiencing just one of these symptoms may make you feel worried, uncomfortable or anxious. If not checked, in time, these feelings may escalate and cause you to struggle in both your work life and private life. But it is important to understand that help is available and that you don’t have to be totally blind to get help. In fact, the vast majority of visually impaired people in full-time employment, have partial vision so don’t give up your job, just because you are losing your sight.

Assistive technology showing hardware that magnifies and transfers text from a printed document to a screen to make it easier for a person with sight loss to read

The Equality Act 2010 protects you against disability discrimination and your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. Visualise Training and Consultancy can carry out a work-based assessment to highlight your needs and give you and your employer ideas on how to make your work life easier. You’ll get a full report detailing any special equipment or alterations that can be made.

Let’s take a look at the most common problems that can occur in the workplace for people who are losing or have lost some of their eyesight. Alongside the problem, we will look at possible solutions.

“I can’t see my computer screen very well anymore…”

This is a common issue that can be tackled in a number of ways. You can use a bigger  or smaller screen, use an anti-glare filter or change the colour scheme and text size within Windows. Failing this, a special screen magnifying programme can be used to enlarge what’s on the screen and change the colours and contrast. In some cases, a special piece of screen reading software such as Jaws or NVDA can be used. This will read out what you type and tell you what is on the screen. Some people may use a mixture of screen reading and magnification software, others may exclusively use screen reading software depending on their needs.

“I am finding print difficult to read…”

A hand-held magnifier can be used to enlarge print, but technology can also be used. A CCTV / video magnifier  can make reading easier, as can coloured filters and smart phone apps such as KNFB Reader and SeeingAI. Scanning a document and reading it on a screen suits some people, as does experimenting with different lighting. In cases where the print is too challenging for technology to tackle, Access To Work may pay for a personal assistant or support worker to help you read documents.

“I suffer from headaches and eye strain…”

If you try to exceed the limit of your vision it can be very tiring. Sometimes, headaches and eye fatigue can be caused by your environment, bright fluorescent overhead lighting or poor task lighting, so adjusting these and regular breaks can help prevent discomfort. Also, a good quality, consistent light source can make a big difference.

“My sighted colleagues don’t know how to support me in the best way”

Your colleagues may not have ever worked with someone with reduced vision, so be loud and proud and tell them what you need and how best to communicate with you. They may also benefit from visual impairment awareness training to understand how best to support colleagues with sight loss.

“I can no longer drive…”

Losing your driving licence because of sight loss is common and very worrying, however, there are ways to tackle the problem. Discounted rail and bus travel can be acquired with disability passes making travel to work on public transport cheaper. However, if you have to travel to appointments within your role, or if using public transport is impractical, Access To Work may pay for taxis. This makes life a great deal easier and reduces stress.

These problems and more can cause high levels of discomfort, stress and anxiety so it’s important to remember that help is available and that communication is often the key to starting the journey to positivity and a sense of equilibrium.

Man with sight loss at workstation with large display screen showing large menu icons. He's smiling as the tech makes his his working life easier.

So don’t suffer in silence, because for every problem there is almost always a solution!

To find out more about workplace assessments, please visit https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/consultancy/workplace-assessments/ or email me at daniel@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk